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Perry, C. (1989). Winnicott, D. W. Babies and their Mothers. London, Free Association Books, 1988. Pp. xii + 125. £6.95.. J. Anal. Psychol., 34(4):403-404.

(1989). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 34(4):403-404

Winnicott, D. W. Babies and their Mothers. London, Free Association Books, 1988. Pp. xii + 125. £6.95.

Review by:
Christopher Perry

Despite the title, this book (apart from Chapter 2) is not addressed to mothers; it is a collection of papers and unpublished talks (spanning the years 1957-1970) that is designed to inform those working professionally with mothers and expectant mothers. The aim is to provide obstetricians, midwives, doctors, health visitors, nursery staff and social workers etc., with a systematic description of the development of the mother-baby relationship. The negative emphasis throughout the book is on the importance of not giving advice to mothers, and of not apportioning blame for environmental failure. It becomes the primary task of the professional to hold for the nursing couple the opposite images of the mother as both dependent and expert. Winnicott insists, for example, on the deleterious effect of coercing mothers into breast-feeding, a coercion he finds insulting to women and in danger of rendering them compliant at the expense of their own creative mothering. The positive emphasis is on the illumination of the process in which the infant develops from total dependence towards independence. This natural process, given a good-enough maternal environment, is examined again and again throughout the book in much the same way as one might circumambulate a piece of sculpture, every circumambulation tailored well to the audience Winnicott was addressing and written in his inimitable poetic and condensed style.

I found Chapter 5—’The Beginning of the Individual’—particularly interesting.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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